Sarah Dash – a third of the powerful R&B trio Labelle and also a contributor to Keith Richards’ solo work – died on September 20 at the age of 76. According to her cousin and business manager John Dash III, Dash was found dead at her home in Trenton, New Jersey. No cause of death has been determined pending an autopsy.
As a founding member of Labelle, Dash appeared on their ubiquitous 1975 dance floor classic “Lady Marmalade”, as well as records from the band’s previous incarnation, the Bluebelles (I Sold My Heart to the Junkman 1962). Although she was often overshadowed by Patti LaBelle’s lung power and showmanship and Nona Hendryx’s rock side, Dash had a soft, feathery voice (much like Diana Ross’s) that added sensuality to the sound of the trio – heard especially in Dash’s parts of the deep cut “(May I talk to you before I go to) Hollywood.”
“She had the most beautiful high-pitched soprano voice you would want to hear,” said LaBelle. RS. “And she was an incredibly sexy and beautiful woman who had class and elegance. She was the lead singer, but preferred the vocals.
Dash’s solo track “Oo-La-La, Too Soon” also had a long lifespan when it was remade in the 1980s as “Oh La, Sassoon” for Vidal Sassoon hair products.
The daughter of a pastor, Dash was born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey. Although she originally sang in church, she drifted into secular pop with her high school friend Hendryx. After Dash moved to Philadelphia, she and Hendryx joined forces with LaBelle (then Patricia Holte) and Cindy Birdsong to form the Bluebelles. Under the name Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, they’ve crashed into the top 40 twice with “Down the Aisle” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. The group also opened for the Stones during some shows in 1965.
LaBelle says her bandmate was also “the person who kept it all together.” LaBelle recalled a moment during the Stones tour where she and Birdsong almost got into a backstage fight. “We had driven from Philly to LA, and I was irritable and we didn’t have a lot of money,” says LaBelle. “We got into a fight and Sarah came in and said, ‘This won’t happen. We are like sisters. We are not fighting! She has always been the peacemaker.
After Birdsong left to join the Supremes, where she replaced Florence Ballard, the re-renamed Labelle bounced off several labels before “Lady Marmalade” took control of the airwaves, reaching number one in 1975. hook of worm “Do you want to sleep with me tonight ? (“Do you want to sleep with me tonight?”) – finally put Labelle on top. Labelle was also a revolutionary cultural presence. In the early 1970s, they adapted a glamorous look, incorporated more socially responsible songs into their repertoire, and became the first black female pop group to headline New York’s Metropolitan Opera House. As space age Afrofuturists, Labelle went where few all-female groups did at the time.
When the group broke up in 1977, Dash was initially adrift, as she later admitted: “What we had was working and I was happy with what we had.” LaBelle and Hendrix each landed solo contracts with Epic, but Dash was left out, at least initially. “I was a little shaken by this,” she said in 1979. “Patti and Nona were both recording their first albums, and I didn’t even have a label.
Signing with impresario Don Kirshner’s label, she released several solo albums starting in 1979, most of them steeped in disco and ballads. Dash landed on the dance charts several times, especially with “Sinner Man” which brooded in 1979, but his own career failed to be heard. “I always saw us as equals in terms of talent,” Dash said of Labelle in 1988. “But Patti did most of the lead roles and Nona did more than me. It was my only regret to come out. de Labelle – for not having established myself sufficiently in the group as the lead singer.
In the late 1980s, Dash experienced a career resurgence with a new album and his collaborations with Keith Richards. “You know, I’m doing a solo album with tracks from James Brown,” Richards told him. “I want you to do some backups and maybe we’ll do a duet.” Dash ended up with an important voice on ‘Make No Mistake’ on Richards’ Talking is not expensive and joined her tour group, where she sang the lead role on a version of “Time Is on My Side”. Dash also contributed to his Principal offender solo recording.
From the 90s, Dash turned to jazz and blues. But she and their group mates never left Labelle behind. The trio reunited for “Turn It Out” on the soundtrack of the years 1995 To Wong Foo, thank you for everything! Julie newmar and made a reunion album in 2008, some of his tracks produced by Lenny Kravitz. In 2019, Dash released his latest single, the danceable “Something Inside”. According to Dash III, Labelle was then to reform for a show in Chicago next year.
Dash’s last performance was on September 18, when she joined LaBelle on stage in Atlantic City for an impromptu reunion. “She was healthy and fine and sang her face,” says LaBelle. “The crowd has gone mad. She had the best start. If that’s how you’re gonna go, she’s gone like a queen.